People love flying into Reagan National Airport because of the view of the monuments downtown upon landing and the airport's accessibility via its own stop on Washington's Metrorail station. But while being teeny tiny means security lines can move swiftly, it also means there are fewer decent options when it comes to food. Still, there are a few gems within the airport itself and, conveniently, there are several restaurants worth visiting within reach for those travelers facing long layovers and delays.
In this spirt of things, we've chosen ten places to eat and drink in and around National that are local to DC, so that delayed travelers can find the fastest, finest food and beverages to suit the amount of time they have to kill. And stay tuned for the future, as the airport is in the midst of a major redevelopment, which will bring such additions as Ben's Chili Bowl and Legal Seafood.
Best Bets Inside Reagan National Airport
1) Five Guys: Sure, Five Guys has been expanding across the country at a rapid pace, but the burger restaurant got its start right here in Northern Virginia. Their customizable burgers and fries cooked in peanut oil have rabid followers in the DC area and beyond and for very good reason — they are delicious (Gates 35-45).
2) Cibo Bistro & Wine Bar: It's an airport-centric concept, but Cibo Bistro & Wine bar offers more than 32 different wines to choose from, along with Italian-leaning fare such as meats and pastas. There are also cocktails and options such as paninis that you could bring with you on a flight. (pre-security).
3) Mayorga Coffee: This coffee roaster with a Latin American roast profile has a handful of retail locations throughout the DC area, as well as a roasting facility out in Rockville. Mayorga offers 100 percent Arabica coffee and has been keeping people caffeinated since 1997 (multiple locations).
4) Matsutake Sushi: Airport sushi can be a sketchy encounter at best, but Matsutake is a solid option. The Japanese restaurant has a few other locations in the area (including one out at Dulles Airport) and this one offers the usual: sushi, sashimi, tempura and teriyaki. It's waiter service, too, so you can take some time to relax over your miso soup (pre-security).
5) Gordon Biersch: DCA doesn't have a ton of offerings beyond national chains. But at least Gordon Biersch is a place where you can get some decent beer, some microwbrews, and the opportunity to sit down before you have to run and catch a flight. (Gates 35-45).
Best Bets Outside Reagan National Airport
(You'll need at least three hours to get there, eat, and get back.)
1) Jaleo: Spanish chef José Andrés is currently king of DC's dining scene and he just so happens to have a restaurant in Crystal City, minutes away from National Airport. Though the flagship Jaleo location is downtown, this one has the same menu of tapas favorites that have helped propel Andrés to the enormous fame and accolades he's collected over the years. (2250A Crystal Drive, Arlington, 5 minutes from the airport.)
2) Kabob Palace: This Middle Eastern restaurant has cultivated a serious following for its fine versions of chicken, lamb and beef kabobs. Kabob Palace is open all hours of the day, meaning that even during a painful late-night layover you can eat well outside of the airport. (2315 South Eads Street, Arlington, 5 minutes from the airport.)
3) Nando's Peri-Peri: D.C. used to be the only place you could find Nando's in the U.S. (they've just expanded to Baltimore) and it's still a draw for local fans and those who have experienced the food abroad. Grab spicy chicken, mushy peas, and other specialties in a fast-casual atmosphere. There's sangria and other alcoholic options, too, if you need to calm your nerves before the flight. (1301 South Joyce St., Pentagon Row, about 10 minutes from airport).
4) Good Stuff Eatery: Tourists may be familiar with chef Spike Mendelsohn from Top Chef and the Food Network. His expanding Good Stuff Eatery chain now includes Crystal City, where customers can get burgers and fries alongside the restaurant's popular milkshakes, which come in such flavors as toasted marshmallow. Stay tuned: the chef plans to bring an outpost of his We, the Pizza chain to the area as well. (2110 Crystal Drive; about 5-10 minutes from airport).
5) Epic Smokehouse: Epic Smokehouse, which opened about a year ago, is a cross between a steakhouse and a BBQ joint. Chef Wayne Halleran and general manager Joon Yang, who know each other from years working at The Palm together, are trying to cook the food that they like to eat when entertaining each other as friends. (1330 S. Fern St., about 10 minutes from the airport).